Every day I try to be a better person because the Urban Farmer is such a good example! When I met him, he was defending the environment, volunteering all over the city, planting seeds and tending bees, with the idea he would one day have his own farm. He dove into funding research, city & land research (i.e.: red tape research), took risks, followed his heart, stuck to his values, and he made himself a real farmer!
I had the opportunity to tag along on Mondays and pick vegetables for the CSA delivery. While carrying crates of fresh produce, we would joke about “a case of the Mondays” knowing we were fortunate to enjoy such a sunny start to the week. In November, we delivered the last CSA subscription, and though I’d miss my Mondays on the farm with the Urban Farmer and our loyal furry sidekick, this moment felt more celebratory than sorrowful.
What happens now?
This was a popular question as the colorful leaves disappeared and a chill emerged. There will still be runs to local breweries, coffee shops and restaurants to pick up spent grains, grounds and scraps for compost. There will be plenty of planning, and there will be invasive trees and vines to clear once the weeds have died down for the season. The Urban Farmer hopes to farm all year long, but this first year, the farm will rest for the winter, and largely, we will wait.
Waiting is the biggest lesson the farm has taught me. Nature, farms, gardens and even a potted plant on a windowsill have the power to humble our wild egos. I had visions of events, flower subscriptions, camping rentals, etc, etc, etc, but in the end, the focus had to be planting seeds and harvesting food. The farm doesn’t dash dreams, it just reminds us to put them in check, to slow down, to savor the start and learn, learn, learn! “In due time” the farm seemed to whisper to me with every ripened vine and burst of color.
“In due time” is an important message to remember in the face of “life is short” and “seize the day” and even “YOLO.” I believe in these approaches, but often times, they can lead us to knock too aggressively on the wrong door or go sprinting down the wrong path. It pays to quiet ourselves, to listen and to remember that some dreams require their fair share of “due time.”
That this farm would remind me of this lesson is fitting. That this man would remind me of this lesson is fitting. Years ago, I walked away from Paris. An accordion player serenaded the canal, the denizens debated in their beautiful native tongue, baguettes beamed goldenly in bakery windows, and I left it all behind me. I packed my bags, boarded a plane and returned to Pittsburgh. I had two plans: to write and to farm.
With French expressions still swirling in my head, I arrived at my AmeriCorps meeting, one of the final stages of my interview process. The man rolled out a map of the city highlighting the various programs. As he finished explaining the dots on the map, I asked with some concern, “Where are the urban farm programs?”
“We won’t be running those programs anymore,” he said. “The funding was cut.” My face surely exposed every ounce of disappointment I felt erupting inside me. My entire application had revolved around the urban farming programs, and he waited until I crossed an ocean to tell me this? Had I given up Paris for nothing?
I didn’t shed a single tear, but I surely wore a shellshocked expression as I rode the bus home that day. My dream had been crushed, and all my planning had been foiled, but somehow, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and moved forward. My path meandered, maybe even floundered at times, as I tried to recoil. I turned to cooking and baking as a way to celebrate farms and local food and buried my farming ideals deeper within me… that is until a dear friend mentioned her new cohort.
“He wants to start an urban farm,” she said when telling me about the photographer who had volunteered to help her bring clean drinking water to those affected by fracking. “He keeps bees,” she said. My heart fluttered, and that friend saw the twinkling in my eyes. She had already known my heart would flutter and my eyes would twinkle. It was all a part of her plan.
I liked him on paper before I met him, but I quickly loved him in real life, and before I knew it, I was spending Mondays in the sunshine, on green bean treasure hunts, plucking sweet cherry tomatoes and watching him preach the gospel of small-scale, organic farming to all who would listen. “In due time,” his farm reminded me, “in due time.”
This life seems to be a crazy mix of planning, following dreams and letting go. Figuring out when to do each is the elusive key. Savoring each step more is my goal. I recently heard a Persian poem that summarized this journey so beautifully (via Liz Gilbert, naturally).
The Place Where You Are Now
This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.
Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
The Beloved has bowed there –
Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming.
I could tell you a priceless secret about
Your real worth, dear pilgrim,
But any unkindness to yourself,
Any confusion about others,
Will keep one
From accepting the grace, the love,
The sublime freedom
Divine knowledge always offers to you.
Never mind, Hafiz, about
The great requirements this path demands
Of the wayfarers,
For your soul is too full of wine tonight
To withhold the wondrous Truth from this world.
But because I am so clever and generous,
I have already clearly woven a resplendent lock
Of his tresses
As a remarkable truth and gift
In this poem for you.
Here’s to the circles on the maps!